So I have been in Cairo for three days now. I arrived around midnight on December 30th after nearly 30 hours of straight traveling. I met up with Mike, Tammer and Annalee at Dahab Hostel and since then we have stayed at Meramee’s Hostel and now Luna Hotel. Luna is by far the most comfortable (and expensive, at 220 egyptian pounds per night, roughly 11 USD each) Cairo has been amazing so far. The first day here we walked from downtown Cairo, across the Nile, to Zamalek. A relatively hip part of Cairo with expensive shops and moderately priced delicious food. For New Year’s we relaxed at a beer cafe full of Egyptians. Yesterday went to Islamic Cairo and Kan el-Khalili. We climbed the minaret of a 13th century mosque and payed far too much for Turkish coffee. Today we saw the Citadel of Cairo, a fortress that was active from the crusades up until world war II. It has since been conquered by tourists. The irony was unavoidable. After the citadel we followed the suggested walking route to several mosques. The last one dating back to 867? AD, the oldest standing structure of Islam. It was also the first ever use of the pointed arch. Tomorrow we are heading to Giza for a private tour INTO the pyramids, courtesy of Tammer’s aunt.
Cairo seems washed up upon reflection. Almost everything is aimed at tourist dollars but today we had an especially significant experience. Two days ago a Coptic church was bombed shortly after midnight in Alexandria. I believe the death toll is around 21 with 80 injured(This attack was NOT aimed at tourists but rather attempted to create a riff between the Christians and Muslims of Egypt). As we were walking around downtown Cairo today we noticed almost 25 military trucks full of soldiers positioned around the circle that we have been staying near since our arrival. As Mike and I were returning from a late lunch this evening we noticed that the soldiers were now standing in position at every “corner” of the circle. Sensing an interesting opportunity we quickly walked back to Luna to grab our cameras. We returned to the circle shortly after 5pm and began to talk to an old Egyptian man. He spoke excellent English and we later found out that he was some sort of reporter. We were joined by a young female reporter from the Egyptian Daily News. From what we gathered, the soldiers were positioned there in response to a student protest against Mubarak, the Egyptian president that has been rigging the elections for the past 30 years (this past year he won in a landslide 98%, a literally impossible voter percentage) The soldiers seemed to be demonstrating a sort of nationalistic pride, not uncalled for considering the recent events. I was able to steal a few photos of them thanks to the protection of our elderly reporter friend, who at one point “told the police to fuck off, politely” as the Egyptian Daily news reporter put it. Around 5:30 the student protesters against Mumbarak appeared with hand-written signs, numbering at less than 20. Our old Egyptian friend urged me to quickly snap some photos of them and within 3 minutes the soldiers had ripped theirs signs away and arrested several of them. At this point we (I, Mike, our friend John, the old Egyptian and young female reporter) were clearly recognized as reporters of some sort and were forced to evacuate the circle. John, Mike and I ducked into a cafe on the circle and grabbed a seat by the window to watch the scene play out. We talked of politics, the state of affairs and what lies ahead for the conflict in the Middle East as well as troubled countries around the world (John being a UN volunteer stationed in southern Sudan to oversee a local election) We satirically picked out the undercover secret police with their army issue mustaches. The demonstration was anticlimactic and after finishing our Turkish coffee we headed back to our hostel for a well earned nap. Tomorrow morning we head to Giza to see the Pyramids! Photos coming soon.